Experts of the Human Rights Committee Raise Issues Concerning Anti-Corruption Measures, Training for Police, and Discrimination in Dialogue with Armenia
The Human Rights Committee this morning concluded its consideration of the third periodic report of Armenia on how it implements the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, with Committee Experts raising issues concerning anti-corruption measures, training for police, and discrimination.
A Committee Expert enquired about Armenia’s anti-corruption strategy and bodies, and referred to critical reports of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development concerning the measures taken by the State party to fight corruption. A Committee Expert asked what work had been done in terms of training law enforcement officials when it came to the use of firearms? Did the State party intend to establish an independent accountability mechanism for law enforcement officials concerning the excessive use of force? A Committee Expert noted shortcomings in the State party’s draft legislation against discrimination, including that it did not provide a comprehensive list of prohibited grounds of discrimination, particularly sexual orientation and gender identity.
Kristinne Grigoryan, First Deputy Minister, Ministry of Justice of Armenia and head of the delegation, said Armenia had launched comprehensive and far-reaching justice system reforms in 2019, which included reforms in the judiciary, anti-corruption bodies and in law enforcement. The New Criminal and Criminal Procedure Codes were adopted in 2021, providing a modern criminal framework in compliance with international obligations.
The delegation said that the entire curricula of police education had been changed to comply with human rights standards, including on firearms. Police officers regularly attended training on the use of force and special means and weapons. On anti-corruption institutions, the current anti-corruption strategy was adopted in 2019 and envisaged three main pillars, a constitutionally independent body to ensure prevention, a specialised law enforcement anti-corruption committee, and specially trained judges for the anti-corruption court. The law on the establishment of an anti-corruption court was adopted by the parliament in 2021 and had just been validated by the Constitutional Court. Armenia had a new institutional framework to better fight corruption.
The draft law on equality was under discussion, the delegation said. It discussed discrimination and its types, and envisaged a non-exhaustive list of protective measures. The new Criminal Code included the crime of public call to violence which expanded the definition of hate speech against a person or group of persons based on race, nationality, ethnic or social origin, religious or political or other views, or other circumstances of personal or social nature. On the question of whether this included hatred based on sexual orientation, the delegation said that the list was non exhaustive and included all characteristics that could be put under circumstances of personal or social nature.
In concluding remarks, Ms. Grigoryan said that ensuring human rights was the Armenian Government’s priority and commitment. Armenia would continue to develop its human rights system, and would be focused on the implementation side. Armenia had a lot of legislation but the practise should be improved. This remained challenging but Armenia was doing its best.
Photini Pazartzis, Chair of the Human Rights Committee, in concluding remarks, thanked the delegation of Armenia for the constructive dialogue. The purpose of the dialogue was to share and see what were the improvements and what were the shortcomings in the State party, in a spirit of constructive discussion.
The delegation of Armenia was made up of representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Central Electoral Commission, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, the Investigative Committee, the Office of the General Prosecutor, the Police, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Territorial Administration and Infrastructure, Office of the Prime Minister, Ministry of Defence, and of the Permanent Mission of Armenia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will issue its concluding observations and recommendations on the report of Germany at the end of its one hundred and thirty-third session, which concludes on 5 November. Those, and other documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, will be available on the session’s webpage. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at http://webtv.un.org/.
The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 20 October, to start its consideration of the second periodic report of Botswana (CCPR/C/BWA/2).
The Committee has before it the third periodic report of Armenia (CCPR/C/ARM/3)
Presentation of the Report
KRISTINNE GRIGORYAN, First Deputy Minister, Ministry of Justice of Armenia and head of the delegation, introducing the report, said that last year had been an extremely devastating year for the Armenian people. Perpetrated amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Azerbaijan’s military attacks had put the lives of 150,000 people of Nagorno Karabakh/Artsakh under existential threat and had made the issue of protection of the affected population urgent. Armenia, like most countries in the world, had been was forced to confront the challenge of the COVID epidemic, which had caused significant socio-economic upheavals in the State. In March 2020, Armenia under article 4 had deposited its notification about temporal derogation from articles 9 (right to liberty and security), 12 (right to liberty of movement) and 21 (right to peaceful assembly). These derogations were waived in early September 2020.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Armenian Government had undertaken 25 programmes-measures to neutralise its consequences, including grants, subsidies, providing guarantees for preferential lending, refinancing, and co-financing, amounting to more than 200 billion drams. These measures were designed specifically for socially vulnerable groups and the total number of beneficiaries of all these economic and social support measures was more than 85,000 persons.
As a result of the constitutional amendments of 2015, an extensive process of reforms with regard to fundamental laws and governmental bodies of Armenia had been initiated. Another important area of democratic changes was the electoral reform. Armenia had launched comprehensive and far-reaching justice system reforms in 2019, which included the reforms in judiciary, anti-corruption and reforms in law enforcement. The New Criminal and Criminal Procedure Codes were adopted in 2021, providing a modern criminal framework in compliance with international obligations.
The new Criminal Code envisaged criminal liability for discrimination based on sex, race, skin colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion, world view, political or other views, belonging to a national minority, property status, birth, disability, age, or other personal or social circumstances. As to hate speech, criminal liability was established for a public address aimed at provoking or promoting hatred, discrimination, intolerance, or hostility towards a person or group of people based on race, nationality, ethnic or social origin, religion, political or other views or other circumstances of a personal or social nature. The Code introduced a number of new offenses, such as forced abortion, forced marriage, psychological pressure, as well as grooming.
Also under the new Criminal Code, the commission of an offense motivated by hatred, intolerance or hostility based on race, nationality, ethnic or social origin, religion, political or other views, or other circumstances of a personal or social nature was considered an aggravating circumstance. The definition of rape was improved to include not only sexual intercourse but other violent acts of sexual nature which were committed against the will of the victim or ignoring his/her will. To address violence against children in residential institutions, the commission of many offenses by the person responsible for the child's education, care, or medical treatment was envisaged as an aggravating circumstance. This included, among other things, various forms of sexual violence towards children.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert enquired whether the legal profession circles in Armenia were aware that they could submit individual communications before the Committee, as only three cases had been submitted so far. How many training programmes in the field of human rights protection had taken place and how many law enforcement officials had been reached by such trainings? The draft action plan for legal and judicial reforms was being drawn up. Were there any concrete actions foreseen under this plan to raise awareness among legal officials about the rights enshrined in the Covenant? The Committee Expert also asked about the training of media workers concerning the fighting of discriminatory stereotypes and patriarchal attitudes, either by media institutions or relevant educational institutions of higher education. Could Armenia provide up-to-date information regarding equitable representation of women in legislative and executive bodies at the national, regional, and local levels? The Committee asked for more information about the mandate and activities of the Women’s Council on ensuring gender equality.
Concerning excessive use of force by the police, had any redress been provided to victims. What work had been done in terms of training law enforcement officials when it came to the use of firearms? Did the State party intend to establish an independent accountability mechanism for law enforcement officials concerning excessive use of force? A Committee Expert further enquired about the anti-corruption strategy and the anti-corruption council and the newly envisaged anti-corruption committee. The Expert referred to critical reports of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development concerning the measures taken by the State party to fight corruption and asked about the functioning of the new anti-corruption body.
Concerns expressed in the list of issues included the possible conflict of interests of the members of the National Assembly and the lack of transparency in natural resource management, particularly in the mining sector. Had there been any case of declared incompatibilities of a member of Parliament? Had there been any case of investigation of members of Parliament on corruption issues? Would the delegation inform the Committee on the status of the project concerning the Amulsar gold mine, in light of the potential disastrous impacts that the project would have on the water system in the area and the life and health of local residents.
Regarding the issue of domestic violence, sexual violence and violence against children, a Committee Expert noted the need for improvements in police response, police training and in increased access to shelters, as well as concerning the definitions of these crimes. The delegation was asked to respond to allegations of intrusive interviewing practices of survivors by law enforcement officers. The Expert Committee enquired about protective measures imposed by the courts and whether these orders were monitored and indeed enforced. How many training courses had been conducted on domestic violence issues for law enforcement officers, judges and prosecutors, and indeed for the general population?
Regarding liberty and security of person, a Committee Expert enquired about provisions in Armenian law on a delay to inform a person of choice after being detained; what was the time frame to bring the detained person before a judge; and whether the presence of the defence counsel was mandatory during the first interrogation of the detained person by the police and was it respected in practice.
A Committee Expert noted shortcomings in the State party’s draft legislation against discrimination, including that it did not provide a comprehensive list of prohibited grounds of discrimination, particularly sexual orientation and gender identity, and it did not clearly provide for the prohibition of discrimination in a private sphere, like a private company, including adequate sanctions and remedies.
Regarding hate crimes and hate speech, a Committee Expert asked if the proposed amendments to the Criminal Code would criminalise all acts of hate crime and hate speeches on all prohibited grounds, including sexual orientation and gender identity.
A Committee Expert further asked about the existing or planned mechanisms and legislation ensuring reproductive health and reproductive rights of a person. Regarding awareness-raising and data dissemination on safe abortion services, the Committee was concerned about reports of smear campaigns aimed at discrediting and stigmatising non-governmental organizations and human rights defenders in Armenia. What steps were planned to protect and enhance the safety and credibility of civil society organizations and women human rights defenders?
A Committee Expert asked for the measures taken by the Government to ensure sustainable and reliable access to reproductive healthcare in the Yazidi villages. The Committee had received reports that there was a "general absence of comprehensive sexual education" in Armenia. What did the State party intend to do in order to monitor and ensure that all schools in the country implemented educational programmes of proven effectiveness on safe sex practices?
In the report, Armenia had provided the number of non-combat related deaths in the military, which includes murder, suicide, and accidental death. The Committee asked for the results and the penalties for the proceedings instituted because of these deaths. Given the number of suicides committed, what steps had Armenia taken or envisaged to take with the aim of investigating and eliminating hazing in its armed forces?
Concerning mailboxes that had been set up for inmates in prisons to lodge confidential complaints of torture and ill-treatment, how did Armenia ensure that prisoners were able to file complaints without fear of surveillance, intimidation or reprisals by prison staff or fellow inmates, and how did recorded interrogation sessions help prevent torture? The Committee was aware that Armenia had enacted laws criminalising the use of torture. The Committee Expert asked for an update on the progress of the cases against persons who had been charged with the offence of torture.
Recent reports showed poor conditions in places of detention, including overcrowding, and that prisoners with disabilities were unable to access prison facilities such as exercise areas, outdoor areas and even toilets. A Committee Expert asked what steps Armenia foresaw to make places of detention accessible to persons with disabilities? One Expert expressed further concerns about the ill-treatment of prisoners in Armenia, including issues concerning adequate medication, informal prison hierarchy and adequate psychiatric services.
Responses by the Delegation
The delegation said that the responses to some questions, including requests for statistical data, would be provided in writing. Concerning raising awareness about the individual application of the provisions of the Covenant, activities envisaged in Armenia were reflected in the national human rights strategy and the three-year action plan to raise awareness among judges, prosecutors and police officers, among others. Human rights training was provided through training institutions, including the Justice Academy and the Human Rights Defenders Office. The draft law on equality was under discussion. It discussed discrimination and its types, and envisaged a non-exhaustive list of protective measures. Issues concerning gender equality and multiple discrimination were covered under the Constitution. Human rights training was provided for people working in the media on gender equality and gender-based violence, including in the equal presentation of women and men in the media.
Progress had been made on female representation in decision-making positions in Armenia. Thirty-four per cent of parliament was made up of women. At the local level of decision-makers, out of 3,849 persons, 389 were women, while nine out of 500 municipalities were led by women. One out of 12 Ministers was a woman. In law enforcement, there was a 7 per cent quota for women recruits.
The delegation spoke about the prosecution and punishment of police enforcement agents who participated in events in 2015 and 2016, adding that compensation would be paid to the families of those who had died and to those who were wounded. The entire curricula of police education had been changed to comply with human rights standards, including on firearms. Police officers regularly attended training on the use of force and special means and weapons.
To prevent cases of torture, in 2020, the law on police was amended to ensure video recordings of police interrogation, including terms of storage and who might have access to them.
On anti-corruption institutions, the current anti-corruption strategy was adopted in 2019 and envisaged three main pillars, a constitutionally independent body to ensure prevention, a specialised law enforcement anti-corruption committee, and specially trained judges for the anti-corruption court. The law on the establishment of an anti-corruption court was adopted by the parliament in 2021 and had just been validated by the Constitutional Court. Armenia had a new institutional framework to better fight corruption.
Regarding the management of the mining sector, the Ministry of Justice had introduced significant reforms in the sphere of beneficial ownership in line with international standards. Changes had been made in national legislation. An investigation was underway into allegations of corruption in the licensing of the Amulsar gold mine, given the environmental risks involved.
Concerning domestic violence, a specialised department was in charge of this issue in the police. Training courses were provided for relevant police officers, to develop their skills, with the support of international organizations and civil society groups. As a result of the cooperation, manuals and guidelines were provided to the specialised police department officials. A mobile app was also being developed, as well as a hotline. There had been no cases in the past few years of police officers pressuring victims of domestic violence to withdraw complaints. The new Criminal Code expanded the scope of various forms of physical violence. It considered as a crime any form of force, regardless of the harm caused. Also, a crime by a close relative was an aggravating circumstance. The definition of rape had been improved as well as other sexual violence. New electronic methods of recording investigations had been introduced for minors and for a number of crimes, including sexual violence. There was also a provision in the law for a psychologist to be present during the interrogation of a minor.
A campaign against domestic violence in television and social media had been very successful. Services to beneficiaries included psycho-social and legal support. Another important State programme was financial assistance to support victims of domestic violence.
Concerning persons deprived of liberty, they had an irrevocable right to inform the person of their choice of their whereabouts. A person deprived of liberty had the right to refuse to take part in any interrogation in the absence of their defence counsel.
Concerning the instigation of hatred, the new Criminal Code included the crime of public call to violence which expanded the definition of hate speech against a person or group of persons based on race, nationality, ethnic or social origin, religious or political or other views, or other circumstances of personal or social nature. On the question of whether this included hatred based on sexual orientation, the list was non exhaustive and included all characteristics that could be put under circumstances of personal or social nature. There was no distinct crime of hate crime, but hate speech was an aggravated circumstance in all cases of violence. In response to questions that the authorities did not take action on crimes concerning sexual orientation and gender identity, the delegation provided information concerning criminal proceedings and investigation on incidents against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
In 2016, the law concerning reproductive health had been amended, specifically matters concerning abortion, including gender biased and sex selective abortions. Abortion was allowed until the twelfth week of pregnancy. Professional working styles of medical workers had been improved. The Government was working on awareness-raising campaigns on sexual and reproductive health with the help of State and international organizations. Social networks and regional partners were also involved against gender biased sex selection abortion. Contraceptives were provided to the Armenian population, including to women living in rural communities, as well as to people with disabilities.
Armenia had a new law on persons with disabilities and it was planning to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Responding to questions on procedural safeguards, the delegation reiterated that any person deprived of liberty in Armenia had the right to inform the person of their choice of their place of detention. Furthermore, criminal proceedings were impossible if the person charged did not have access to legal advice. There was no statute of limitation on acts of torture, nor was amnesty granted to torture perpetrators. Torture prevention activities were carried out in penitentiary institutions. In one year, nearly 100 "potentially unlawful deaths" had been recorded in the armed forces and in prisons. The authorities were obliged to investigate independently and effectively all such cases.
The delegation explained that within the framework of improving conditions for persons deprived from liberty and optimising penitentiary institutions, the Government had taken relevant measures, including plans to build a new penitentiary institution with the capacity of 1,200 places in the city of Yerevan. In terms of criminal cases related to criminal hierarchy, the relevant materials were being sent to the investigation centres. To ensure there was no mistreatment, cases were recorded and sent to the relevant bodies to ensure fair process without discrimination. Three cases had been sent to court.
Concerning medical treatment, all measures were being taken to ensure better care conditions for health care professionals and therefore inmates. Regarding suicide in penitentiary institutions, there was a strategy in place to improve the collection of statistical data, including physical and psychological assessment. Toolkits were developed to assess the medical conditions of inmates. Overall, the Government was taking an individual approach to ensuring the health of people in penitentiary institutions. With regards to people with disabilities in prison, the Government was taking appropriate measures to ensure equal access for them and training for officials was also being regularly organised in penitentiary institutions.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert enquired about the specific measures taken by Armenia to remedy the situation for victims of human trafficking in the form of reparations and re-integration mechanisms. What efforts had been made to improve the access to justice by victims and prevent further occurrence of trafficking incidents, especially for children below the age of 18? Since the Labour Inspectorate was abolished, what had been the effectiveness of the Department of Health in conducting labour inspections? The Committee enquired about the criteria followed by law enforcement officials in differentiating asylum seekers from illegal entrants prior to detention, especially about establishing the intent to escape criminal liabilit y. Concerning freedom of conscience and religious belief, the Expert asked about provisions in the new State Standard of General Education, which would specifically address and promote the freedom of religion.
With regards to anti-corruption measures, a Committee Expert asked about cases of declared incompatibilities or investigations of members of Parliament on corruption issues, as well as public access to information concerning the declarations of assets of members of Parliament. On domestic violence, noting the improvement made by the State party, the Expert enquired whether the new provisions on domestic and sexual violence also applied to unregistered marriages or partnerships. Furthermore, what were the views of the delegation on the allegations of intrusive interviewing practices of survivors of domestic violence by law enforcement officers and of detrimental and inadequate forensic examinations? The delegation was asked to give examples of protective measures imposed by the courts and inform whether these orders were monitored and indeed enforced. When did the State party intend to ratify the Istanbul Convention, signed in 2018?
A Committee Expert noted that Armenia was implementing the 2019–2023 Judicial and Legal Reform Strategy, and although improvements followed, the public trust in the justice system seemed still to be extremely low. The Expert asked about the voluntary early retirement for Constitutional Court judges, as well as the measures taken to ensure the independence of the judiciary system from the executive power, the President, or the legislative power. Was there an independent body/bodies responsible for judicial discipline and what was the composition of such bodies? Were decisions related to the appointment of judges and prosecutors based on objective criteria explicitly provided for by law? What was the tenure both for judges and prosecutors? The Prosecutor General appointed prosecutors. Who appointed judges, the Supreme Judicial Council? What was the actual number of prosecutors and judges and their gender balance?
According to the report of the State party, juvenile justice sector reforms were aimed at the establishment and development of mechanisms ensuring the accessibility of justice for children and the protection of the rights of children who were offenders, victims and witnesses of crime. In the replies to the list of issues, reference was made to the Juvenile Justice Council, established in 2016.
What were the main functions of this Council? Was it an advisory body to the Ministry of Justice on issues relating to children in conflict with the law? Where were juveniles in conflict with the law kept? Had there been a reform of such institutions in recent years? What were the main goals of these reforms? What social rehabilitation programmes and services for juveniles in conflict with the law were available in the community? Which institutions were available for juveniles in need of care by the State? Had these institutions been subject to reforms too? Of which nature and to what aims?
The Government of Armenia had had to take various measures to prevent the spreading of the coronavirus. The amendments to the Laws on the Legal Regime of the State of Emergency and Electronics Communication, which were introduced in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, seemed to have interfered with the right to privacy. The State party informed that it would be impossible to continue the electronic supervision by means of the Electronics Communication. Still, what about the period between March and September 2020? Was the right to privacy violated by State-mandated measures of electronic supervision? Had the Government taken any steps in the aftermath, that was after 11 September 2020, to assess whether this electronic surveillance was warranted, and that the same result could not have been achieved with less intrusive measures into the individuals’ private life?
Had the data gathered been used for purposes of prevention of transmission of COVID-19 or for purposes of punishing persons for not having complied with the restrictions imposed? Also, what had happened with the data gathered during that period? What measures had the Government adopted to ensure compliance with the requirements set out in the Committee’s general comment No. 29 as well as its statement on derogations from the Covenant in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic concerning articles 9 (right to liberty and security), 12 (right to liberty of movement) and 21 (right to peaceful assembly)? In the course of 2020 and 2021, Armenia introduced significant changes to the electoral law framework to ensure better gender representation, better democratic representation more generally, and transparency in campaign financing. What requirements were imposed by the electoral law on disclosure obligations concerning campaign financing to ensure more transparency? What penalties could be imposed in cases of non-compliance by political parties? What measures had been adopted and/or envisaged to ensure full accessibility of polling stations for persons with disabilities?
A Committee Expert expressed concerns with the increased number of defamation lawsuits against journalists and media outlets and asked for clarifications on what grounds the reported cases were subject to investigation, prosecution and trial? The Expert asked whether the investigation and prosecution of those cases satisfied the requirements under the Covenant. A Committee Expert noted that changes were introduced to the law on freedom of assembly, but asked whether the amendments to the existing law had been already adopted and how were they implemented in practise. The Expert asked for information on the legal provisions or practical guidelines for police and other law enforcement officers to take coercive measures, including the use of force to control assemblies or disperse them.
A Committee Expert highly appreciated the State party’s ratification of the Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse. However, the Expert still had some concerns on the protection of children. There were some allegations that more than 5 per cent of women ages 20 to 24 had married before the age of 18, and that forced marriage and bride kidnappings were not uncommon, and these practices were seen to affect girls and women predominantly from the Yazidi community. The Committee Expert asked for the measures taken by the State party to improve this situation, particularly to the Yazidi people, while respecting their religion and traditional way of life.
The new Criminal Code criminalised physical, psychological, and sexual violence against children. In addition, the commission of offences by the person responsible for the child’s education, care, or medical treatment was considered as an aggravating circumstance. Did the Criminal Code criminalise corporal punishment in the home as part of domestic violence? Or was there any other legal framework to tackle the issue of corporal punishment? In terms of the violence against children in schools and other childcare institutions, the Committee asked whether there was any mechanism for monitoring the cases of violence, such as an independent organ to accept and examine complaints submitted by victim children or their family members.
Replies by the Delegation
The delegation of Armenia explained that in terms of combatting the problems of human trafficking, Armenia had been experiencing difficulties for many years, including lack of capacity and issues with identifications and prosecutions. However, significant improvements had been made. For instance, a strategy had been adopted at the national level. Nine cases of trafficking were investigated this year, and three were sent to the courts. Although these may appear to be small numbers, the delegation noted that it represented progress in comparison with previous years. There was a specialised department that dealt only with trafficking issues. The figures of investigated cases were increasing. The implementation of programmes for assisting victims was in place in accordance with the law. They included psychological support. The budget provided had been doubled.
The support provided by the Government for victims of human trafficking included shelters, documentation, medical aid, legal aid, as well as monetary compensation. All these services were provided in accordance with the specific needs of the victim. Within the national plan for fighting human trafficking, a few improvements were envisaged, including developments concerning child support. The Labour Code was also in the process of being amended to ensure the protection of human rights of trafficking victims. Medical care of victims of trafficking was free of charge in Armenia. As for the preventive measures, specific textbooks and guidelines had been developed for professionals to assist them in their work in dealing with human trafficking.
Regarding asylum seekers, the delegation explained that the Criminal Code did not cover cases of stateless people entering the country without documents. This meant that when crossing the Armenian borders, they had to apply for asylum so they did not become subject to criminalisation. This was in compliance with the Geneva Convention, applied this year. In the past three years, there were over 10 applicants for asylum, who made their applications immediately after entering the country. The Government had adopted a resolution, which aimed to resolve the housing situation of refugees and provide documentation for purchasing houses. The programme had a few stages, currently Armenia reached the fourth stage.
The migration services had received over 3,000 applications for housing. The process of consideration of applications had not been completed. At the same time, there were still quite a lot of refugees who did not manage to obtain permanent housing. They still lived in shelters and centres. The Government was planning new measures to resolve their housing situation. More and more refugees were obtaining Armenian nationality. The relevant funding was provided to support the process of giving nationality to these people to ensure they learned about the culture of Armenia and its history. The refugees who did not want to receive Armenian nationality received a subsidy for nine months. A new law was being drafted to ensure that the rights of refugees were safeguarded.
Appropriate care was in place concerning religious beliefs. Education in Armenia was also amended to be more inclusive, rather than focus on one religion. The delegation confirmed that there were Black people in Armenia, but there was no specific statistics on them. Concerning corruption, the delegation noted a few concrete cases, including cases involving high-level politicians. The information was publicly available on the website of the anticorruption commission. The new Criminal Code criminalised marriages between close relatives. Regarding court cases, there were criminal cases regarding domestic violence, and the delegation would provide more detailed information in writing. A representative of the police provided statistics from the specialised unit, which dealt with cases of domestic violence. Some cases included urgent interventions. Women were trusting the institutions better, but further improvement was needed.
There were domestic violence support centres throughout the country, and they were financed by the State budget. There were hotline numbers, providing support to these victims. The ratification issue of the Istanbul Convention was on the Government’s agenda, but the delegation could not provide a specific date on when it would be ratified. Some developments happening in different States parties, undermining the role of the Convention, were influencing the opinion of Armenian society. Still, the Government had not withdrawn from it, but more awareness was needed about what this Convention was about and particularly what it was not about. Some strange questions and wrong feelings had been expressed regarding this Convention, noted the head of the delegation.
The public trust in the judiciary was indeed low, therefore the Government was trying to apply strategies aiming at increasing this trust. The delegation explained some undergoing changes concerning the Constitution, including a referendum that was dropped due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There were changes in the way mandates of the judges were established. The independence of the judiciary was provided by envisaging a constitutional body, which was the Supreme Judiciary Council, composed of five academic lawyers, elected from the Parliament, and five were judges from different areas. Furthermore, there were Committees established within the Council with representatives selected through an open competition process. The Council also proposed the appointment of judges, which were then formally appointed by the President.
The delegation provided detailed information on the appointment of the prosecutors, noting the transparency and the independency of the process. A person included in the list of candidates underwent specific training in the judicial academia. They also noted the numbers of women prosecutors in Armenia. Gender equality in the judiciary was a subject of two reports, quoted and referred to by the delegation. The Gender Council was advising on policy on practical issues, it acted as a referral mechanism, with the support of international bodies.
Children who had problems with the law in Armenia received psychological assistance if needed, and this service was provided to children and their families. Educational programmes were provided through training centres, by assessing the educational needs of the detained minors. They were enrolled in basic literacy, art, etc.
The new Criminal Code provided for criminal proceedings for people engaged in sexual activities with a child, who had not reached 18 years. This was considered rape and was subject to imprisonment of 3 to 4 years. Grooming was also defined in the Code, it expanded to witnessing, showing pornographic materials, or making the child having sexual desires. Storage of pornographic material was also criminalised. Amendments to the law, including prevention of corporal punishment, was being drawn up. Concerning the right to privacy, the delegation explained that the reasoning behind collecting data was only to establish the infected persons during the COVID-10 pandemic. There was a Commission monitoring this tool, composed of representatives of different authorities and civil society organizations, who then ensured that the data collected was destroyed. Armenia was still assessing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Regarding campaign financing, new regulation obliged recipients to report all the financing to the relevant bodies.
The Council for Women’s Affairs was established to ensure equal rights for women and men. Its objectives included fighting discrimination through society, women’s empowerment in life, prevention of gender-based violence, and others. The Council could establish thematic groups to discuss relevant problems. International organizations and civil society groups could join the work of the Council. It had held two meeting this year, and discussed issues concerning gender strategies, equal participation in social, economic and political processes, and steps to combat violence against women. The regulations of the Government concerning the spread of disinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic was dropped after 18 days. Regarding the law on freedom of assembly, police officers must hold a tolerant attitude towards assemblies. The police could terminate the assembly only under certain circumstances.
A Committee Expert asked how many days persons entering the Armenian borders had before they were arrested as illegal entrants, and was this information explicitly made to their knowledge. Did Armenia take preventive measures to limit death sentences in the country? Committee Experts also noted the high-level representation of women in the delegation, as well as the young age of some of them. The Experts enquired about the optional protocol to the Convention on Torture and the plans of Armenia to further promote human rights in the country. What was the place of the Covenant in the Armenian courts? Regarding participation in public life, the Committee noted that persons running to be members of parliament had to be 35 years old or more, asking why were young persons were excluded?
Replies by the Delegation
The delegation of Armenia pointed out that the mandate of human rights defenders was drafted in law, and an even broader mandate was envisaged. There were also legal provisions to ensure that financing could not decrease. The Covenant was adopted long time ago and national legislation had been amended accordingly already, and it was not envisaged for it to be revised again. Further information and statistics would be provided by the delegation in writing.
KRISTINNE GRIGORYAN, First Deputy Minister, Ministry of Justice of Armenia and head of the delegation, said that ensuring human rights was the Armenian Government’s priority and commitment. Armenia would continue to develop its human rights system, and would be focused on the implementation side. Armenia had a lot of legislation but the practise should be improved. This remained challenging but Armenia was doing its best.
PHOTINI PAZARTZIS, Chair of the Human Rights Committee, thanked the delegation of Armenia for the constructive dialogue. The purpose of the dialogue was to share and see what were the improvements and what were the shortcomings in the State party, in a spirit of constructive discussion. The Chair commended Armenia for its ratification of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, on the abolition of the death penalty, and for the new Constitutional reforms being implemented since 2015. The Committee noted the situation of domestic violence and violence against women, as well as the reforms of the judicial system and how they were becoming operational.